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Ignorance is Bliss

Editorial: Tourism Minister's Wacik's Pollyannaish Reaction to the Current Economic Crisis is Ripe with Danger for Indonesia's Tourism Industry.

(10/18/2008) Stock markets around the globe have lost trillions in value. Credit lines have dried up threatening the very life's blood of daily commerce around the world. Greying populations watch fearfully as their pension plans evaporate and the asset value of their homes plummet. Unemployment climbs as factories, banks and manufacturing enterprises close in Asia, Europe and the U.S.A.. Leading economists are almost unanimous in their warnings that the current economic crisis has yet to play out and that the resulting recession's ill-effects are likely to be felt for for years to come.

Enter Indonesia's Minister of Culture and Tourism, Jero Wacik who stepped up to the microphone last week to assure the media that not only would Indonesia's tourism industry suffer no ill effects from the current economic upheaval, but would, in fact, incur a massive windfall in business as a stressed-out world beats a path to Indonesia's door seeking rejuvenation and relaxation.

Right.

Prepare to Suspend Belief

Quoted in various media across Indonesia, including the Jakarta Post, Minister Wacik declared "the current global financial crisis will benefit Indonesia's tourism industry." Explaining his view, Wacik continued: "The crisis is stressing so many people out. They need to relax to relieve the stress . . . that's why I am optimistic the number of foreign tourists visiting Indonesia will increase.

What's Missing in This Picture?

To Minister Wacik's credit, he has promised more flights and more events in the final months of 2008 to keep tourism numbers flowing into Indonesia. And while such steps have their merit, we fear the Minister's fundamental failure to grasp the truly dire nature of present circumstance precludes him from fulfilling his proper role of urgently convening the leaders of Indonesia's tourism industry to analyze the developing situation and plot strategies to minimize the fallout of what remains, at least for now, a worsening economic scenario.

Recalling the words of the great economist, John Kenneth Galbraith, we humbly remind Minister Wacik of the following:

"All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership."

That the current economic crisis is real is beyond dispute.

Minister Wacik, it's time to seek the wise counsel of our industry leaders to formulate what can and must be done to protect the millions of Indonesians who work in the tourism industry.